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The Over-Caffeinated History of Jolt Cola

Kids loved to drink Jolt to get a sugar rush and parents certainly tried to keep it away from their kids so they would behave…and get some sleep…

The Jolt story began in 1979 when a man named Joseph Rapp quit after 40 years of owning a Canada Dry bottling plant. He attended a soft drink distributor meeting that year and noticed that representatives from different companies were set on taking caffeine out of new cola products…so Rapp decided to go in the opposite direction.

Rapp and his son C.J. tested over 100 other formulas for a highly-caffeinated cola with real sugar for the next six years until they decided on their product and debuted Jolt Cola in Rochester, New York, in 1986. The company’s slogan was “All the sugar and twice the caffeine”.

Jolt became famous in a hurry and soon the company had franchise agreements in 20 different states. The Rapps used beer distributors instead of soda distributors to get their product across the country because most bottling companies already had deals with either Coke or Pepsi and wouldn’t touch another soda brand.

Jolt was also marketed perfectly and ads said that people were tired of the “parade of wimpy-tasting colas” and wanted something new and exciting.

The Rapps knew they couldn’t compete with Coke and Pepsi but they still hoped Jolt would be a success. The company saw $1 million in sales in 1987 but sales dropped 44% the following year and Jolt ended up having a 0.1% of the market share. But Jolt did steady business and expanded into 44 U.S. states and into Canada.

Certain demographics appreciated Jolt, like farmers who appreciated that Jolt used real sugar and computer programmers who drank the soda to stay up late at night working.

As energy drink companies like Red Bull and Monster gained popularity, Jolt was seen as a novelty item and it unsuccessfully tried to change its look and image to fit in among the now-crowded field. The company went through hard financial times including a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The beverage was essentially shelved for a few years and returned in 2017 under new management. Jolt is now available in 16-ounce cans.

With all the extra caffeine packed in, Jolt was truly ahead of its time and set the stage for the popularity of energy drinks that we see today.

 

 

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